A former long-time staffer for the Senate Intelligence Committee, James A. Wolfe, 58, was charged on Thursday with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Obama administration's ruthless efforts to track down and prosecute leakers (or at least those who leaked without the administration's approval) got significant media coverage during his administration.
The Associated Press notes, "Though Wolfe is not charged with disclosing classified information, prosecutors say he was in regular contact with multiple journalists who covered the committee, including meeting them at restaurants, in bars, private residences and in a Senate office building".
The reporters with whom Wolfe communicated with are not named in the indictment, but The New York Times identified one of them as its reporter Ali Watkins, who worked at BuzzFeed News and Politico prior to joining the Times in December.
When law enforcement officials obtained journalists' records during the Obama administration, members of Congress in both parties sounded alarms, and the moves touched off such a firestorm among advocates for press freedom that helped prompt the Justice Department to rewrite its relevant guidelines.
At the time, Watkins was a reporter for BuzzFeed. He will have to appear in D.C. District Court on Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Wolfe was not a source of classified information for Ms. Watkins during their relationship, she said.
The indictment also describes an incident in which Wolfe alerted another reporter in October 2017 that he had served Page with a subpoena to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"We were not aware of these allegations that Mr. Wolfe had a relationship with Ali Watkins until the news of the indictment broke", said Tim Grieve, vice president of news for McClatchy.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that March, "Ali Watkins, now a 22-year-old freelancer for McClatchy in Washington, D.C., received a tip from sources who came to trust her while making herself a presence on Capitol Hill, according to a posting by Temple's School of Media and Communication".
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But he added, "It's clearly inappropriate for a reporter to be in a relationship with a source and to be reporting on him".
The Times did not respond to requests for comment Thursday evening.
On Friday, Wolfe wore a pair of gray socks and a white button-up shirt, without a belt or tie.
McClatchy's series, which was published throughout 2014, was chockablock with revelations about the internal workings of the intelligence committee.
According to The Times, the Justice Department notified Watkins in February that her email and phone records - but not the content of her communications - had been seized.
Lawyers and journalism experts have argued that the Espionage Act applies to the person who leaks the classified information - not to publishers or journalists.
In a statement, Watkins' attorney, Mark J. MacDougall, called the seizure of his client's telephone records "disconcerting". Wolfe served in the job for almost 30 years, from 1987 until last December. "A former campaign adviser for Donald Trump met with and passed documents to a Russian intelligence operative in New York City in 2013", the story began.
Referring to a public indictment in NY, she wrote, "BuzzFeed News has confirmed that "Male-1" is Page".
Wolfe "used his personal cell phone, his [Senate Intelligence Committee]-issued electronic mail account, and anonymizing messaging applications, including Signal and WhatsApp, to exchange electronic communications with reporters", prosecutors allege in the indictment.